By Managing Editor Richard Bruce Turen

There is a light breeze coming off the water and I sit at an outdoor table at Fish Frenzy, alongside the Elizabeth Street pier in Hobart, Tasmania. Elizabeth Street pier has a beautiful waterfront. I see boats, yachts, ships, and a fisherman fishing with a fly reel under $100.

I am approaching the midpoint of a cruise that began in Sydney and will end in Auckland. With a few days tucked in at either end, I will be away from the office for three weeks, the longest I’ve been away in two decades.

As is my, peculiar to some, habit, I am not vacationing alone. I’ve been joined by thirty clients, most of whom I call friends.

But let me start at the beginning.

Having put together the group, and handling the air arrangements through Qantas, the cruise line’s contracted carrier, I set about trying to set up our personal air. I would need to buy three Business Class tickets. The quote I received, about six months prior to our departure, came to just over $27,000 for our family of three. Whatever happened to those “Free” airline tickets I read about in the internet ads put out by the card mills?

Wasn’t I supposed to just step up to the boarding gate, announce that I am a “travel agent” and watch as the door to First Class opens magically to welcome me?

I happen to like Qantas a lot. They score well in our reviews. But I don’t like them $27,000 worth. So we scouted around a bit, just like consumers who sense there might be something better out there.Australia Sydney BX

There was. I jumped on some Business Class promotional fares from Virgin Australia and saved just over $11,000. I will tell you about their service in a future piece. Let’s just say that the entire cabin crew came up and personally introduced themselves one-by-one and each promised to do all possible to make this the best flight of our lives. You know, just like on United.

We decided to break up our trip in and out of LA, with pre and post stays at the newest joint in Beverly Hills. I always like to have a taste of the real America before getting boarding an aircraft for a long trip abroad and Beverly Hills seemed just the place to get my bearings.

On the way to the airport we got limo services in Los Angeles, the driver explained that it was refreshing not to have celebrities in his car for a change, and then went on to tell us which major league actress he was picking up as soon as he dumped us on the airport curb but it was easy and simple to get this limousine service from https://www.arizonasedanandlimo.net/limousine-services-phoenix.html. We thanked him for his sentiments.

I was feeling a bit the failure, as I hadn’t, journalistically, been able to figure Beverly Hills out in the twenty-four hours I spent there. But I was able to do one bit of research for you. I did carefully count the number of air kisses I could observe from arrival in LA to my flight out the next day. That number came in at twenty-seven. But I sort of cheated because I spent more than the normal amount of time in the lobby of my Beverly Hills hotel and I was thus able to collect about twenty air kisses for my project in a relatively short time. Don’t miss a flight. Don’t hassle with traffic or parking. Don’t worry about picking up a group from multiple locations and coordinating rides to and from the airport. Rockstarz airport car service is one of our most popular services, and for good reason.

We had a wonderful flight, spent several days in Sydney and then moved on to Melbourne via portions of the Pacific Ocean.

In Sydney, we stayed at the Park Hyatt, a sort of deluxe motel type structure overlooking the Harbor and the Opera House. It is one of the top tier properties in Sydney The Observatory is a lovely small property and there is a Four Seasons. But there is no five-star superstar in this town of bountiful delights. In fact, it seems to me that this world-class city, this place that keeps winning all the “Best City in the World” awards when San Francisco comes in second, is underserved when it comes to properties of note and true luxury. But that may also have to do with the local mindset toward design. Aussies just aren’t that taken with marble bathrooms and Grecian columns.

On the tiny poll deck above the Hyatt I swam in the miniature pool overshadowed by the girders of the Sydney Harbor Bridge, a somewhat more compelling site then the languid flow of the Opera House. I felt this even more strongly when I discovered that I could lay on my back and float, while watching some of my clients as they pranced aloft on the bridge’s upper walkway.

The Opera House has come to symbolize the city, a World Heritage site that emerged from the mind of the Danish architect Jorn Utzon. His concept was originally rejected and then saved when the Finn, Eero Saarinen determined that it was worth another peek.

Sydney’s most famous building sits on the site of the former Fort Macquarie Tram Depot. The design story of the building is rather fascinating since it originally involved geometric concepts that had not yet been invented. The parabolas that were to be held up by ribbing of concrete would likely not have worked and certainly would never have come in anywhere near budget.

But before I dive too far into this let me say that the Opera House was not nearly my favorite thing about Sydney. That would be the Circular Quay Ferry Terminal.

True it does not have anything like a soaring roofline that seems to be in flight. The ferries aren’t even remotely as appealing as the ones that ply the waters of my old stomping grounds in Sausalito and Larkspur. But visiting Sydney, one is struck by the water and the absolutely effortless ferry system that allows drop dead gorgeous transport to Manly Beach, Neutral Bay, Watson’s Bay, Tarona Zoo and on and on. Sydney is a series of waterways that are an integral part of the layout of the city.

A local blogger on an Aussie news site said it better then I ever could after someone had the temerity to suggest that Melbourne is the more interesting of Australia’s large cities:

“If you don’t love it leave. I’ve been around the world twice over,. I had a wild rhino chase me in Zambia….I shared a cup of water with a child suffering from malaria and god knows what else in Zimbabwe…I’ve been harassed by beggars and feared for my kidneys in China and pick pocketed in France…I was held up in Rio and mugged in New York and London….but I loved every minute of my travels and I will go back to these places again and again. ..But when I land home in Sydney and I see that beautiful bright blue sky and sparkling harbor there is a feeling deep within my bones…I LOVE this luck country of ours and all the beauty that it holds.”

So here I sit, at an outdoor restaurant, along the harbor in Hobart, Tasmania. There are working fishing boats in front of me with a wonderful town behind us and mountains to our left. It all feels like the Norwegian fjords, except that everyone speaks some bizarre form of English and everyone seems eager to share their discovery of the good life.

The folks traveling with us have done something I’ve never before observed as an escort anywhere in the world. They have, with some serious intent, engaged in discussions of actually retiring in Australia. At one time, that would have been fairly easy, but nowadays, one needs to be self-sufficient in a Goldman Sachs retired department head, sort of way. We’re not at all sure the Aussies will have us and, anyway, we’ve yet to meet the Kiwi’s.

So what is it about a short time in Australia that makes an American want to move there? After only nine days of running about small portions of this vast warehouse of a country, I don’t have it all figured out. But I do know it has something to do with the fact that the Aussies just don’t devote a lot of energy to trivial kinds of pursuits. Every Aussie we’ve encountered seems to be unaffected by attitude. They just seem to have somehow figured out what is important in life and what isn’t.

I was in the country just a few days when I started to hear what, for me, became the operative phrase of the country, the one unifying force in this vast, special land.

 “No worries”. Or the more brotherly version, “No worries mate.”

 You hear it everywhere, from the hotel doorman when you ask directions, to the bookseller who you thank profusely for her time spent climbing a ladder to get you a book from the top shelf.

Go to a restaurant and ask for the fish sauce on the side while substituting veggies for rice. It is always “No worry.”

If North Korea made a mistake of geography and actually launched a missile or two at Canberra, I would imagine the first thing the Minister of Defense might say would be “No worries” before knocking them to kingdom come.

The more time I spend in this place the more I realize how the No Worry Nation is so appealing to outsiders. These folks, just don’t sweat the small stuff. What you see is what you get. It is a huge nation, filled with “No worriers.” So you rarely see folks with any pretentions to trendiness. Aussies aren’t searching for identity and if you won’t accept them as they are – well then, stuff it.

I was so taken by the “No Worries” phrase that I tried researching its derivation. At a coffee shop I found a white-haired gentleman, a retired government official, who smiled broadly when I asked him about it.

He explained that when Australia was primarily a British penal colony, convicts were allowed to earn time off and a clean slate, despite the harsh conditions. On the day that the convict was finally freed from the prison, he was given a piece of paper that meant he was free of all debt to society. At that moment he was said to have “No worries” and some warders actually wrote it on a slip of official paper.

My fish platter arrives, heaps of fresh catch in a large paper cone, along with a bottle of Cascade Blonde. Rule number one when traveling down under, I quickly learned, is never order a wine or a beer with which you are familiar. Fosters is considered by many to be strictly for export. Always go for the local favorites.

I am surrounded by Aussies but only two are locals. The rest are vacationing in Tasmania, a land known to be even more laid back then the big island.

Once you leave Sydney, you invariably get into discussions with Aussies about which part of Australia you prefer. What that really means is, how do you compare Melbourne to Sydney. You don’t hear Melbourne discussed much in Sydney, but Melbourners seem obsessed about their second city status.

I could easily turn this into a ten-part series so let me get to the point. If you travel by cruise ship, as I am, you are not going to see Australia. But you are going to see it’s major urban centers. You are going to get a feel for Aussie city life and then, later, in New Zealand, you are going to see smaller towns and magnificent countryside.

I preferred Melbourne to Sydney. I base this on what I perceive as liveability, a more laid back lifestyle, better developed ethnic neighborhoods, and a more entrenched and open cultural scene.

I saw Melbourne, as much of it as I could, the city the suburbs, the parks, from a horse drawn carriage, a car, and on foot.

The center of the city is filled with impressive Victorian buildings that grew up out of the Gold Rush. The city is orderly, amazingly clean, and the streetcars seem to glide effortlessly.

There are the ethnic neighborhoods. Lygon Street has wonderful espresso bars befitting Little Italy, Brunswick is the Middle Eastern portion of the city and Richmond is little Vietnam. There is a thriving Chinatown. What makes this all so special is the setting, a coastal plain at the top of horseshoe-shaped Port Philip Bay.

When I left downtown San Francisco forever, I never thought I would ever again see a city so beautifully framed by the sea. Melbourne is that – and more.

Sydney has the sites but Melbourne has the sensibility. It is just about the coolest city on earth.But now, we are in Hobart, nestled between brooding Mount Wellington and the tranquil banks of the Derwent River. Earlier in the day, we explored this waterside town on foot. We came upon a planned village in town, a wrap-around series of four-story new condominiums surrounding an open space with stores on the first floor.

We were struck by what we saw here. A park-like setting with residents of all ages sharing stories, stopping to chat, passing a few moments, in between stops for coffee or shopping. A few little details struck me about this scene. There was a giant chessboard in one corner where local kids had a spirited game. But the fitness of the population indicated that chess was just a sideline. Instead of a department or grocery store, the anchor tenant was a two story outdoor shop selling everything from kayaking and sport fishing gear to mountain climbing gear. It was packed. If you’re someone who’s looking more into relaxing on the beach, Byron Bay is definitely the place to be. Shirley Street Byron Bay accommodation is near the beach, restaurants, and even the nightlife! You’ll get a luxurious stay that’s walking distance from the beach so you can enjoy during the day and go out to the bars and restaurants to meet new friends at night.

That seemed to me to represent an accurate portrayal of the value-scale of local residents as well as the country. Sports-minded exploration of the “Land of No Worries” is the way most Aussies seem to roll.

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